Brian Wood and Alvaro Martinez deliver chapter three of "World War X" and inch our heroes and the future of mutantkind in the Ultimate Universe toward its epic conclusion in "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #31.
The battle between the United States and Utopia has shifted to mutant versus mutant as Utopia and Jean Grey's Tian come to literal (and political) blows over what the future of mutantkind looks like. Jean Grey has poisoned Utopia's greatest weapon -- the Sentient Seed -- bringing Utopia (and Rogue) to its knees as it struggles to survive. In the aftermath of that brutal blow, Kitty abdicates her leadership of Utopia both as a political maneuver and in order to join the strike team to take down Tian. It's good preemptive battle stuff, a nice "quiet before the storm" issue.
As a hardcore Rogue fan, it's really exciting to see Wood's excellent and a bit outside the box work with the character. Her connection to the Seed (and yes, relationship -- she calls herself the seed's partner) makes absolute sense and yet it's something I've never seen before with Rogue. Similarly, Wood shows other less established characters really pushing on their powers creatively and Kitty Pryde truly thinking about her place as leader of Utopia. When she steps down as leader in this issue, it's clear that Wood has really thought through what a character in her position would have to consider. The political movements are just as exciting as the creative uses of power in Wood's hands, because it's all incredibly smart, which equals good superhero writing.
Martinez's art is solid throughout and nicely consistent, but it's lacking in passion or soul. He delivers what's needed to get from point A to point B, and occasionally presents something cool, but it feels like he mostly phones it in. He does have a challenge in a lot of characters to render, but the result is that they all look pretty similar and the acting is not particularly strong. In a quieter issue like this one, those small character moments become even more important and they just don't quite sing in Martinez's hands.
On the whole, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #31 is a cool set up for the battle to come and it ably moves some interesting pieces on the chess board. Unfortunately, uninspired art keeps it from being anything particularly special.